Latest NHS Genomic Medicine Centres announced

18 December 2015

Two new Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) for the 100,000 Genomes Project (100KGP) have been announced as Yorkshire and the Humber and West of England, bringing the total number of GMCs to thirteen.

The strategic value of the two new centres is extending the geographical reach of the project, which is intended to recruit patients and families with rare diseases and cancer from throughout England for whole genome sequencing and analysis.

The Yorkshire and the Humber GMC brings together the Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, along with eleven other acute trusts, the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network and our major regional universities. The West of England GMC comprises healthcare providers in Bath, Bristol, Cheltenham and Gloucester; the universities of Bristol and the West of England; and the Academic Health Science Network, along with health service commissioners and patient organisations.

It is now said that around 70,000 people will be involved in the 100,000 Genomes Project ‘which includes some patients with cancer and rare diseases’. Cancer patients will effectively have two genome sequences (their own and that of the their tumour) whilst

family members of rare disease patients will also be sequenced. This can be important for identifying genetic mutations that may have caused the rare diseases, which would be present in the patient but absent from healthy family members. At the time of writing, a total of 6,000 out of 100,000 human genomes have been sequenced by the project.

The original scope for the 100KGP led by Department of Health owned company Genomics England included infectious diseases as well as rare disease and cancer, but responsibility for delivery of the infectious diseases element of the project was passed to Public Health England (PHE).  Pathogen genome sequencing is the application arguably closest to widespread clinical implementation to improve disease diagnosis, care and control, as set out in the recent PHG Foundation Pathogen Genomics Into Practice report.

Dr David Black, Medical Director for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber said“The work at the centre could help improve the prediction and prevention of disease, allow more precise diagnostic tests to be developed, and enable personalisation of drugs and other treatments. These advances are at the forefront of health technology and may improve both the outcomes and experience of treatment for many patients in the future”.

NHS England, which had evaluated and designated the new GMCs says that they are ‘good news for the future of healthcare in this country'.

Commenting on the announcement, Chief Scientific Officer for England Professor Sue Hill, who led the evaluation of prospective GMCs, said: “The UK is already a leader in genomic technologies and the unique structure of the NHS allows us to deliver these advances at scale and pace for patient benefit”, adding that it was “another step towards NHS transformation”.

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